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English Schools To Introduce Children To 3D Printers, Laser Cutters, Robotics

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the path-to-the-future dept.

Education 119

First time accepted submitter Kingston writes "In a radical change to the English National Curriculum, Michael Gove, the Education Secretary has announced ambitious changes to the technology syllabus. Children will be introduced to programming and debugging from the age of 5. Secondary schools (age 11 and up) will be required to have a 3D printer and introduce children to laser cutters and robotics in the design and technology course. The much derided ICT (Information and Communications Technology) subject will be overhauled to teach 'several' programming languages to children so that they can 'design, use and evaluate computational abstractions that model the state and behavior of real-world problems and physical systems.'"

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Right up until... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44219965)

...they figure out that you can make guns with 3D printers.

Re:Right up until... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220085)

You can make a lot of things with your hands without a 3D printer, including guns. You can make a gun out of readily available wood using only cutting tools, and you can even craft the bullets for them with simple tools. I think people are a bit hysterical about 3D printing, it can used for far more than printing weapons. Colonial times called, they want their basic invention back. You could argue that someone could make a plastic knife at school and shank someone with it. But, prisoners have proven you can make a shank out of toilet paper with your bare hands, water and some time. You can't ban intent by banning a piece of equipment, malevolent people will find a way. In the meantime, the technology can be used to bring a lot of ingenuity into the world. Imagine a youngster creating developing an arduino platform and a case to go around it using a 3d printer to create a handheld device to analyze bacteria in the air for example. Science projects in the future are going to get a lot more interesting. You can create very dangerous things in the chemistry lab, should we ban chemistry as well? I just think the mere notion is silly.

teen computational abstractions ... really ...? (1)

noshellswill (598066) | about a year ago | (#44221765)

Perhaps 13% of all adults function via  Piagetian **formal operations**.  Abstraction. This hardwire max ...  betcha many of whose practitioners cheat-thru-affectionate-experience. Now it's force-fed into 14-yo children still struggling to express **seriation**. My gawd the Brits upper-class have got stupid!   

Re:Right up until... (2)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | about a year ago | (#44222651)

"You can create very dangerous things in the chemistry lab, should we ban chemistry as well?"

They are already working on that. A 3D printer is more akin to a home chemistry kit. This is what a chemistry kit from the 40's looked like:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/aa/1940s_Gilbert_chemistry_set_04.jpg [wikimedia.org]

And this is an intro kit from today:

http://www.hometrainingtools.com/classic-chemistry-kit/p/KT-CLACHEM/ [hometrainingtools.com]

Notice anything missing?

Re:Right up until... (2)

maliqua (1316471) | about a year ago | (#44220291)

The real concern is that they figure out they can make LEGO think of the lawsuits the school will face

Re:Right up until... (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about a year ago | (#44223439)

"The real concern is that they figure out they can make LEGO think of the lawsuits the school will face"

The protection for the normal LEGO bricks ended years ago, anybody can make them nowadays.

"On September 14, 2010, the European Court of Justice ruled that the 8-peg design of the original Lego brick "merely performs a technical function [and] cannot be registered as a trademark." [3]"
WP

Do they know? (4, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#44219979)

Does the daily mail know that you can use 3d printers and laser cutters to manufacture hoodies and knives? Monstrous!

Re:Do they know? (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about a year ago | (#44220071)

I'm sure the UK government will be shutting down the program forthwith. After all, the idea that kids could get access to knives is terrible...and a crime in and of itself.

Re:Do they know? (1)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about a year ago | (#44220107)

Knives? Pfft. Guns!

They're going to train terr'rists! And arm them!

Run for the hills!

Or something....

Won't work. (2, Interesting)

FireballX301 (766274) | about a year ago | (#44219995)

I was at a 'technology literate' middle school when Lego Mindstorms came out, and the school bought a few of them for the school computer club so people could 'program' and 'debug' the RCX robots. It was good fun, but all it taught to kids was a very rudimentary concept of program flow.

If you want to make kids tech literate, you deconstruct something they use in their every day lives, when they're old enough to be capable of it. A good example would be a high school course focusing on high level full-stack design - here's twitter, here's how their servers look like in a very simple way, here's their API, let's do a 2 month project to make a frontend. Or let's make our own mini twitter just for our class, here's a sql server and we can write the backend together over a month or so. That sort of thing would both engage kids and give them useful experience.

Re:Won't work. (1)

Microlith (54737) | about a year ago | (#44220201)

It won't work, will it?

It was good fun, but all it taught to kids was a very rudimentary concept of program flow.

Considering how limited the original Mindstorms kits and default software compared to the stuff being used today, you have to learn way more than "rudimentary concepts" to modify things.

If you want to make kids tech literate, you deconstruct something they use in their every day lives, when they're old enough to be capable of it.

How does this make anyone "tech literate?"

  good example would be a high school course focusing on high level full-stack design - here's twitter, here's how their servers look like in a very simple way, here's their API, let's do a 2 month project to make a frontend.

How is making a front end for Twitter better than working with Arduino? Do you have a something against microcontrollers and compilers, but carry a strange fetish for Twitter or web development?

Re:Won't work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220227)

Whatever you do, the unintelligent masses won't truly comprehend any of it anyway. It's like trying to teach them 'advanced' mathematics; they will memorize, but they will not understand.

Re:Won't work. (3, Interesting)

Microlith (54737) | about a year ago | (#44220249)

Therefore we should not, right? If the "unintelligent masses" cannot grasp it, we should not expose anyone to it. Am I getting you?

Re:Won't work. (0)

Dzimas (547818) | about a year ago | (#44220387)

Teaching mouth breathers to program cnc machines and robots is about about as useful as placing a typical geek in mandatory ballet lessons.

Re:Won't work. (1)

Microlith (54737) | about a year ago | (#44220399)

mouth breathers

Careful, or you might find yourself lumped into that group.

Re:Won't work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220465)

You have to be some special kind of retarded idiot to not realize that people can understand things over time. Maybe we should place you in the mouth breather group so you can realize how stupid you sound.

Re:Won't work. (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about a year ago | (#44220681)

people can understand things over time.

Most people can understand simple things, yes.

Re:Won't work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220689)

Nice try.

Re:Won't work. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220547)

Teaching mouth breathers to program cnc machines and robots is about about as useful as placing a typical geek in mandatory ballet lessons.

ie mind-bendingly helpful? Sure, it doesn't help with the bullies, but it will help them learn coordination, and if they're male, they'll get a lot of female attention.

Re:Won't work. (3, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#44221027)

Teaching mouth breathers to program cnc machines and robots is about about as useful as placing a typical geek in mandatory ballet lessons.

I have taught plenty of kids how to program CNC machines, starting with g-code [wikipedia.org] . It is not that difficult, and nearly anyone can learn it. The biggest problem in teaching kids is motivation, and with CNC programming, a high school kid can clearly see the connection between learning the skill and getting a good job. And the mouth breathers start breathing through their noses to keep the metal shavings from getting stuck in their teeth.

Re:Won't work. (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year ago | (#44223201)

about about as useful as placing a typical geek in mandatory ballet lessons.

I certainl agree with what you've written, although it's almost certainly not what you meant. I mean are you honestly claiming that strength, fitness, flexibility andmuscle coordination training is not useful?

Re:Won't work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220691)

No, not at all. Teachers could identify the intelligent ones and then they could be taught the advanced subjects. The cattle can learn other things.

I'm not a fan of one-size-fits-all education to begin with (which is all public schools can provide), but those other students would simply get in the way more than should be allowed.

Re:Won't work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220897)

Saying something as stupid would place you in the cattle, though. Go learn how to cook hamburgers, will ye?

I'm not sure that's a good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44221299)

Food safety isn't something to mess around with :)

Re:Won't work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44222859)

Did you learn every subject at school? Where you interested in every subject at school? Did you have time to learn everything at school? Think about it.

Re:Won't work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220273)

How is making a front end for Twitter better than working with Arduino? Do you have a something against microcontrollers and compilers, but carry a strange fetish for Twitter or web development?

Writing software costs less and web development is more relevant to kids than robots.

Granted, it is way harder and more impressive to create a DIY roomba, but in the end all it does is vacuum the floor.

Re:Won't work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220297)

All Twitter does is changing the color of some pixels on my screen.

Re:Won't work. (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#44221913)

I would like to quote Doctor Who here by saying "Twitter" with disdain.

Re:Won't work. (1)

Microlith (54737) | about a year ago | (#44220307)

Writing software costs less and web development is more relevant to kids than robots.

Because there's no way that kids couldn't already be interested, or become interested, in robots. But of course, the most important thing is to ensure we spend as little on education as possible.

Granted, it is way harder and more impressive to create a DIY roomba, but in the end all it does is vacuum the floor.

I love how unintelligently dismissive you are.

Re:Won't work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220641)

I would also add that, with nothing to physically destroy, students can be encouraged to take greater risks with software than with hardware components.

As far as hardware, kids would be better off learning how to accomplish physical tasks themselves with their hands and simple tools. It requires basically the same cognitive skills with more physical dexterity.

Re:Won't work. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#44220351)

My sympathy is with the 'start at the bottom and work up' approach; but I suspect that one advantage of choosing some abstract but 'real-world' example would be to keep a greater percentage of the class on task.

At some point, you have to decide on a level of abstraction(or just go directly into a mixture of solid-state physics and theoretical CS). Even something like a humble resistor, much less an entire AtmegaXYZ with happy convenience libraries, is an abstraction, and one that people spend their entire careers chipping at so that we don't have to do any more than specify "10Mohm, 5%, carbon film" and go from there.

Re:Won't work. (2)

Microlith (54737) | about a year ago | (#44220389)

But this isn't about that approach. It's about pushing for one's preferred topic over another without providing real support for the notion that tinkering with Twitter would make kids more "tech literate" than tinkering with an Arduino.

I know that I'd prefer to work with an Arduino, rather than screw around with web development even for a minute. Not everyone wants to work on the same project. The reality is that you'd do well to have two different paths that branch from the same fundamental education process earlier, rather than offering one or the other.

Re:Won't work. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220631)

Not everyone wants to work on the same project. The reality is that you'd do well to have two different paths that branch from the same fundamental education process earlier, rather than offering one or the other.

The reality to me, is you would do well to realize kids may approach or be interested in things differently than adults. You don't want to underestimate their intelligence, but you might want to be careful about what you expect of attention spans and interest. Depending on the age, and based on experience I've had with teaching science, there would be a rather large bias in kids toward anything that is hands on, that can make something move in the real world, off the computer. While having multiple paths would be nice, if limited to a single path, make sure it is something that catches the attention of actual kids.

Re:Won't work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220799)

I know that I'd prefer to work with an Arduino, rather than screw around with web development even for a minute.

You might prefer to learn to read and write with alphabet blocks, but the simple fact is that pen and paper will go a lot further in an educational environment.

Re:Won't work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223771)

You might have had a point if your analogy had any semblance to reality.

Re:Won't work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223785)

For example - I'd prefer to screw around with electronics and FPGAs and/or *interesting* software projects involving genetic algorithms and/or neural nets than waste my time on yet another trivial web frontend to an SQL database.

Re:Won't work. (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about a year ago | (#44220687)

Back in the 70's they started us at 14 with a CECIL a cut down training language but it was Assembler we had to code it on sheets and send the code off and get it back the next week

Re:Won't work. (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#44220995)

I was at a 'technology literate' middle school when Lego Mindstorms came out, and the school bought a few of them for the school computer club so people could 'program' and 'debug' the RCX robots. It was good fun, but all it taught to kids was a very rudimentary concept of program flow.

Then they were doing it wrong. You don't just dump the box on the floor and let the kids play. There should be specific projects with goals and graded assignments, so they take it seriously. You need to integrate it with lessons on math and physical science. I work in a Lego-Mindstorms based after school program, and the kids learn a lot about gear ratios, velocity, energy, power, sensors, programming, etc. They also learn about design, teamwork and project management. The older kids (5th and 6th grade) solder custom sensors and learn to use "real" programming languages like nxc. I have also worked on software only projects, and the kids get far more excited about the robots. We will be moving to the EV3 [wikipedia.org] this fall.

Re:Won't work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44222967)

IOW, you should take all the fun out of it so they end up hating it.

Re:Won't work. (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#44221895)

Well, you can always program Mindstorms in C or Assembler or Forth if you want. It isn't restricted to the dumbed down graphical tool that comes with it. But evne what it came with is enough for some good instruction; maybe not in computer science but in thinking about how to solve the problem abstractly.

Your example focuses too much on web stuff. That's a very limited subset of what computers do, even though it's the current cool thing. It doesn't apply to most technology and engineering. The robotics idea is also cool and also very practical, it just needs less of a dumbed down programming environment. Maybe some things are too advanced for high school, like real time concepts and interrupts, but then maybe SQL is too advanced for high school also.

If the goal is to be "high school only for those going on to computer science or professional code monkey" then maybe a heavy duty course in corporate style programing is ok, but most high schools I would think would rather teach more general concepts applicable to students who go into other fields but will still use computers, like all the sciences, engineering, mathematics, accounting, etc.

What's also practical and useful experience in high school is to write programs that intersect with their other homework. Ie, if they're learning pre-calculus than they can use programs to do successive approximations of trigonometric functions. In physics they can have a program that takes periodic readings of equipment, or that computes and displays planetary orbits.

MAJOR after-school project (1)

turkeydance (1266624) | about a year ago | (#44220017)

oh yeah.

Oooh Goodie! (1, Insightful)

TWX (665546) | about a year ago | (#44220059)

Now we can introduce even more people to tinker toys that they'll never use after they get out of school!

How about concentrating on reading comprehension, mathematics, and basic sciences, or if one does go into "trades", go into real trades that have proven to be durable careers...

Not everyone gets to be a rocket scientist when they grow up, and we need to tailor our education systems to present high-but-attainable options. There's no dishonor in being a certified journeyman welder or an electrician or even a plumber, and all can pay very well if the individual learns the skills needed.

Re:Oooh Goodie! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220171)

No need for welders! Just 3d print the finished parts.

Re:Oooh Goodie! (4, Informative)

xaxa (988988) | about a year ago | (#44220209)

How about concentrating on reading comprehension, mathematics, and basic sciences, or if one does go into "trades", go into real trades that have proven to be durable careers...

No doubt you haven't read the article, and wouldn't let something like that get in the way of a good rant anyway.

But the plans also include improvements to mathematics and science (I can't comment on reading/writing).

FTA: Mathematics: five-year-olds to be taught fractions for the first time, for a solid grounding at an early age in preparation for algebra and more complex arithmetic. The new curriculum states that nine-year-olds must be taught times tables to 12, with more emphasis on the skills of mathematical modelling and problem-solving.

Science: evolution will be taught to primary school pupils for the first time, with the new curriculum having a greater focus on scientific knowledge, practical work and mathematical requirements. In secondary school, pupils will study biology, chemistry and physics in greater depth, with greater emphasis on mathematical modelling and problem-solving.

Without speculating about the political motivation for it, this looks like an improvement to me.

Re:Oooh Goodie! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220709)

That is an improvement? Sounds exactly the same as twenty years ago to me.

Re:Oooh Goodie! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220729)

"In secondary school, pupils will study biology, chemistry and physics in greater depth" in other words back to the way it used to be. When they used to be taught and examined as seperate subjects instead of all rolled into one exam.

Re:Oooh Goodie! (1)

Anonymice (1400397) | about a year ago | (#44221323)

Unless they've changed in the last 10 years, they *are* taught & examined as different subjects. The difference is that unless you specifically take science as a subject, study of the 3 sciences rotates in 2 slots & the final qualification is only worth 2 GCSEs instead of 3.

This promise means one of either 3 things:
a) A subject will be dropped from the curriculum to make way for the extra science classes;
b) More will be put on the already overloaded curriculum (especially an issue when all finals are sat over the same period, with no gaps);
c) Empty words, Bollocks & Bullshit.

Re:Oooh Goodie! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44222683)

A lot of this is hype and voter fodder. Most of it will not be implemented, or at least done half-heartedly.

Re:Oooh Goodie! (3, Insightful)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year ago | (#44220213)

Who should tinker with toys if not children? Or just because something is fun it can't be educational? The best use of 3D printers is education: they teach the basics of design and programming, and are very good at printing short-lived plastic toys.

Re:Oooh Goodie! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220221)

machinist isnt far off 3d printing and laser cutting a respectable trade no?

Re:Oooh Goodie! (4, Insightful)

Microlith (54737) | about a year ago | (#44220243)

Now we can introduce even more people to tinker toys that they'll never use after they get out of school!

And you know this how

How about concentrating on reading comprehension, mathematics, and basic sciences

Yeah, we should never expose children to the wider realities of technology. We should hold their noses to the desk, and ensure they never see anything but the insides of books until they can parrot back exactly what they are shown. Just remember that we also need to ensure that we must present math and science in as boring a manner as possible to suck the life and interest out of every student who encounters it.

Not everyone gets to be a rocket scientist when they grow up

Therefore no one should ever be allowed to build a model rocket, or be taught physics, in school.

we need to tailor our education systems to present high-but-attainable options.

Or we should give students every possible avenue and let them experience and experiment with whatever we can and let them determine their skills.

There's no dishonor in being a certified journeyman welder or an electrician or even a plumber, and all can pay very well if the individual learns the skills needed.

There isn't, but limiting education such that those are the pinnacle people can hope for is as idiotic as any stupid thing being done in education today.

The Meta Toys (2)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year ago | (#44220299)

Now we can introduce even more people to tinker toys that they'll never use after they get out of school!

You mean critical thinking and the ability to work with computers?

I would say I've used both skills quite a lot in the real world.

I would say most everyone in whatever field would need those skills.

Even McDonalds workers are better served understanding how to think and use computers...

Re:Oooh Goodie! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220377)

Pretty sure that in the not-too-distant future, tradesmen will be using 3D printers for all sorts of hacks. I mean, these are the people that invented hacks, long before a computer existed.

Meh I disagree (1)

goldcd (587052) | about a year ago | (#44220593)

I started off fine in maths, but stuggled towards the end of higher education.
Main reason is the gift of decent intelligence, eventually swamped by crippling laziness, but I digress.
Contributory factor was also that I was, and still am, piss-poor at visualizing concepts easily. Should my maths (or my physics) have had a practical outlet, then maybe they'd have stuck with me better. An example would be when I got to use one of those programmable turtle thingies. Yay, we can draw a line, then a box, then a square and well obviously it's time to draw a circle... and well that's how you learn about pi.

Re:Meh I disagree (1)

csumpi (2258986) | about a year ago | (#44221463)

crippling laziness

Obviously no tinker toys would've helped with that.

programmable turtle... time to draw a circle... and well that's how you learn about pi

Sorry to break it to you, but drawing circles in turtle has absolutely nothing to do with pi. You might just be living proof to support OP's argument.

Re:Oooh Goodie! (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about a year ago | (#44220697)

yep thats the end game for Gove the reintroduction of grammar schools kids and dumping of working class kids in dead end secondary moderns - not going to be popular when Tory voters when there average kids don't make the cut though - which is one of the reasons the Tories introduced comprehensives in the firstplace.

Re:Oooh Goodie! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220767)

English, motherfucker, do you speak it?

Re:Oooh Goodie! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220831)

Yes he does. Understand the context of the story you are commenting on? I guess not.

Re:Oooh Goodie! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44221575)

I do but you perfidious colonists never quite mastered it.

Re:Oooh Goodie! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44221705)

I do but you perfidious colonists never quite mastered it.

Sorry. Too busy alternately trying to get you to stop fucking bothering us then bailing your sorry asses out of messes of your own making.

Re:Oooh Goodie! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223721)

Oh that would be all the wars you lot start then fucking lose if we dont help you,

Re:Oooh Goodie! (1)

ljw1004 (764174) | about a year ago | (#44220733)

Because the ability to think algorithmically is MORE important in the internet age than most of the rest of high school maths and basic sciences.

It gives kids the ability to examine, use, experiment with the data that's thrown at them from news and magazines rather than just consuming it - yes, even writing a little app to automate one aspect of their journeyman trade perhaps. I thought LOGO to 9th, 10th and 11th graders as an introductory computer class and was delighted when the kids, for their final projects, used it for their own interests, even a Cosmo-style "how good is your boyfriend?" quiz.

Also, it gives kids the ability to better navigate a world where so much of what they interact with - store clerks, web sites, tech support people, tax forms - are more algorithm than human.

Re:Oooh Goodie! (1)

TWX (665546) | about a year ago | (#44221667)

The future isn't going to be Roddenberry's Star Trek or Orwell's 1984 or Huxley's Brave New World, the future will be Gilliam's Brazil. Arguably with interoperability problems we're already there, especially in light of the fact that they missed "Tsarnaev" because someone misspelled it...

You know what schools routinely test high in the local school district? "Basic" schools. Schools that use paper and pencils and chalk, and don't have any computers in the classrooms other than the teacher's computer for attendance. These schools are successful because they don't have any distractions, and because they have good discipline. They keep the kids busy learning, and they challenge the kids.

Men did science and designed buildings and created medical cures and invented complex machines without computers. Hell, men put other men on the Moon with minimal computers, basically single-purpose guidance systems.

People can think critically, analytically, without computers or other fancy machines. I argue that as long as general-purpose computers are put before kids they're a bigger distraction than they are an asset. If that computer can do anything other than what the curriculum is the kid will do that instead of the curriculum.

The children with real potential... (4, Funny)

philipmather (864521) | about a year ago | (#44220091)

...will be printing 3D sharks, gluing the firkkin' lasers onto their heads and fitting them with little robotic legs.

Why now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220109)

Laser cutters and stereolithography have been around for decades. There were articles in Radio Electronics in the early '90s all the time.

Here's an idea, how about teaching about contracts, real estate and financial planning as well?

Or how about a class in 3D helicopter flying? Is that better?

Re:Why now? (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#44220281)

Here's an idea, how about teaching about contracts, real estate and financial planning as well?

We've already seen, in both the US and the UK, where having people skilled in contracts and finance dicking around with real estate can lead us. Let's not try that again, please...

Re:Why now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220451)

If every citizen understood these systems more, this is a problem? Yeah, I guess keep printing out those Yoda coffee cups, that makes for a strong citizenry.

Re:Why now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220665)

Because such tools are becoming much cheaper and more common? Would you have used the same logic to say schools shouldn't have added computers to the curriculum when PCs became more common, because computers had already been around for decades before?

too early (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220183)

It won't work. It's too early. My impression is that most programmers don't start programming until their teens. I've tried to teach my kids algebra, and before 6th grade their brains are teflon, it just won't stick, but after that they get it. Ya gotta introduce things at the appropriate times.

Re:too early (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220245)

but after that they get it.

No, they memorize. They do not understand. Understanding is different from rote memorization, and the latter is as far as people get with even semi-advanced mathematics.

Re:too early (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#44220265)

It won't work. It's too early. My impression is that most programmers don't start programming until their teens. I've tried to teach my kids algebra, and before 6th grade their brains are teflon, it just won't stick, but after that they get it. Ya gotta introduce things at the appropriate times.

It would take a long time, and probably be wildly unethical; but I'd be fascinated to know whether selective breeding could optimize humans for acquiring useless-in-the-wild abstract skills at yet earlier ages, or whether the old neural net can only grow so fast, barring fundamental improvements in cell biology...

After, say, a dozen generations of breeding the fastest algebra-learners with one another, would you see further improvements? Nothing? Epic autism? How about 100 generations?

My nascent eugenics program wants to know!

Re:too early (1)

Nivag064 (904744) | about a year ago | (#44222527)

A few months ago, I had a ten year old boy phone me up, to ask me to coach him in Java programming - his choice of language.

His parents are pleased with his progress, and so am I.

My own youngest some did a little bit of HTML, Java, & SQL at a younger age. He is now 15, and has since moved on to other things.

Both youngsters are in top classes and doing well at school.

People often grossly underestimate what young children can achieve.

Re:too early (1)

fauxjargon (2804219) | about a year ago | (#44221281)

Yeah. I was enrolled in advanced placement classes until I was 10 (6th grade in the USA) and I was removed from them because I simply could not learn algebra no matter how hard my parents and teachers tried to jam it down my throat. A year later in Canada I was introduced to algebra again and went on to get more or less effort-free A's in mathematics courses, and although I had some initial trouble in engineering school due to never really learning how to apply myself and learn something hard, I did just fine throughout my mechanical engineering degree right up until the final math course of the degree, where I barely got through with a C- despite a solid effort on my part.

Re:too early (2)

ItsIllak (95786) | about a year ago | (#44223455)

I've taught 9-11 year-olds programming and about 80% of the class is capable of learning enough to solve simple problems given to them. Frankly, the 20% are unable to concentrate on anything other than video games or TV - they're the ones that would be staring into space or playing football every waking hour 20-30 years ago.

20-30% can excel and really grasp some or all of the basic concepts in such a way that they can solve significant novel problems and even set those problems for themselves.

Is this before or after Marxism 101? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220263)

LOL - English schools are now simply indoctrination camps, designed to brainwash the indigenous 'youth' into accepting their coming demise at the hands of the third world scum who have invaded our country, and are busily looting and destroying it.

I wonder how the English teachers cover up the fact that 99% of the greatest inventions were invented by WHITE MALES? How do the little 'Trayvons' cope with the fact that, with their average IQ of only 70, they are hopelessly incapable of functioning properly in a white man's country?

I went past a crowd of about thirty schoolchildren today, at least 25 were non-whites - what joy. What a glowing future we've got! How could anybody argue against what the JEW-TV tells us? Mustn't be 'racist', must we... let's just sit back and watch our countries being turned into third world shitholes.

Some of this is insane - must RTFA to see why (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220457)

From the article : "Pupils aged five to seven will be expected to "understand what algorithms are" and to "create and debug simple programs".

Kids start school at age 5 here in the UK. From my memories of that age 37 or so years ago, there was much playing with sand, learning to read and write and really simple maths (learning to recite multiplication tables, simple addition and subtraction, etc). I learnt to program when I was 12 on the first generation of home computers, but then I was familiar with the basics of algebra so it all seemed fairly natural. But demanding that kids are learning about algorithms and creating and debugging programs before they can read and write to a basic level of competence is unbelievably dumb.

BTW, the education minister responsible for this is an ideologically driven conservative, who has also been recently proposing that state funded schools should be preferably controlled by the churches rather than the (democratically elected) local authorities, as well as the possibility that they could also be run on a for-profit basis. Not impressed by this at all, especially seeing the online comments in some of the more right wing news sites in response to this news story claiming that "making and building things is real engineering not just writing a few lines of computer code".

Re:Some of this is insane - must RTFA to see why (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220975)

I think the "From age 5" will be quietly dropped. I know from experience that some primary schools introduce the children to Scratch. I think seven is probably about the youngest age you could expect the brighter kids to be able to produce something functional. Teachers have to take the whole class along with them, I feel sorry for the kids with no interest or aptitude for programming. It would be very dispiriting at that age, as you said five year olds should be playing sand or lego.

Good luck with finding qualified people (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220569)

Having come from a family were both my parents were teachers and seeying the vast amount of marking, paperwork , parents evenings out of school hours they had to do and abusive parents because little johnnie really was stupid, Id have to say sod that for a game of soldiers.

I earn more in industry than most teaching grades would pay for less work.

Misguided (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220619)

This reminds me of my school which bought a very expensive CNC lathe which was controlled and programmed from a BBC-B micro for the "Technology" workshop. I never saw it used by a student in three years.
It could only cut ABS blank stock (which was also expensive), and only one teacher was able to demo making a 2" purple christmas tree.

It was a gimmick - much like 3D printing is at the moment. But makes a nice headline.
At it's current stage of development, 3D printing seems to be a great deal of futzing around tuning the hardware and learing how to use Sketch-Up to eventually print: a 2" purple christmas tree!!
Building the printer will be educational for those that are motivated and have the opportunity (though I suppose they could go with Reprap - buy one and then print one for each student), but with building, futzing and long print times you wouldn't get further than a few trees completed within a regular school term.

Surely there are simpler, cheaper, possibly even better alternatives to provide and promote these skills than this?

Re:Misguided (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220789)

Yes I am sure the mention of the obligatory 3D printer is simply because they are currently in the news here. We should count ourselves lucky that he didn't mandate each schoolchild has to produce their own graphene! ;)

What is behind the changes. (1)

Kingston (1256054) | about a year ago | (#44220623)

I think a lot of the motivation for these changes comes from the criticism of the existing ICT course from Ofsted [bbc.co.uk] the education regulator but probably more from the speech Eric Schmidt made [guardian.co.uk] about the UK throwing away it's engineering legacy. He said "I was flabbergasted to learn that today computer science isn't even taught as standard in UK schools"

Re:What is behind the changes. (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about a year ago | (#44220705)

Eric mate the Uk has been "throwing" its engineering legacy away since Brunell died.

Re:What is behind the changes. (1)

mvdwege (243851) | about a year ago | (#44222601)

It's even more obvious: mandating equipment means another expense that the lower classes can't bear, plus more profit for whoever gets to deliver the equipment.

It's a blatant act of reactionary class warfare.

Re:What is behind the changes. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44222649)

Schools have already had to buy lots of expensive equipment of dubious worth, like having to equip every classroom with interactive whiteboards. This new equipment list will have to be met out of LEA budgets, and they aren't getting bigger.

Re:What is behind the changes. (1)

ItsIllak (95786) | about a year ago | (#44223479)

Decisions on equipment like this are usually made at school level (by the head and by the board of governors). I don't recall any mandate to buy interactive whiteboards.

That said - I can't see why you use that example - they are amongst the most engaging pieces of equipment in the classroom and allow the teachers to "buy in" materials to really add interest to their lesson plans.

The sad thing is how the schools are ripped off by vendors, in fact LEAs pretty much mandate that schools should be ripped off by forcing them to use specific vendors. Something rotten in the state of Denmark...

Re:What is behind the changes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223555)

OK maybe not mandated but there was the DfES Primary Schools Whiteboard Expansion project (PSWE) which resulted in whiteboards springing up in our local school. I am glad you have found yours useful but they don't suit every pupil [guardian.co.uk] still I take your point, there are much worse example of equipment problems like the scandalous contracts [bbc.co.uk] some heads have been duped into signing for IT and photocopier equipment.

Re:What is behind the changes. (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | about a year ago | (#44223587)

about the UK throwing away it's engineering legacy.

So the kids learn to build 3D printers with 15 times the number of parts that are necessary?

Raspberry Pi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220637)

This is what the Raspberry Pi charity was set up to support.

Re:Raspberry Pi (1)

ItsIllak (95786) | about a year ago | (#44223521)

I just don't get how it's actually supposed to do it.

One of the independent coding initiatives (in fact, most of them) in the UK had a bunch donated to them by Google. My club of 15 kids got three and I'm supposed to give them out to the kids. I'm almost 100% certain they will sit in a cupboard and never get used - I mean, what's the point? 99% of families have a laptop - that includes a keyboard and a screen, without that - for most people - a computer is useless.

Re:Raspberry Pi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44223723)

As far as I understand they were supposed to be donated in a $50 bundle ( according to Eben Upton ), not sure if that includes case, power supply, SD card keyboard etc. OCR is also supposed to be distributing 15,000 learning packs to go with them. I got this from their blog entry. [raspberrypi.org]

One of the points often mentioned about the Raspberry Pi is that the home PC/Laptop is not available for the kids to program on because the parents are scared of the possibilty of damaging it. Well I hope you can find three keen kids in your club to be rewarded with these machines.

Who is going to teach this? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220695)

Good goals. But who the hell is going to teach all this?

This is already a major problem in math: the set of people who want to teach a bunch of 5-6 year olds is pretty much disjoint from the set of people who like math. I don't want to bash teachers, but if teachers absolutely hate a subject (and trust me, a VERY large percentage of elementary educators hate math - I've taught a lot of them in college), there are going to be major problems.

I can't imagine that these educators are going to be much better with teaching programming. I mean, what percentage of kindergarten teachers know how to program? Hell, I wouldn't trust most of the K-4 teachers I know to teach basic computer usage. These are smart and good people, but computers and math just aren't their forte.

Maybe they will have specialists teaching this. That's nice. But the set of people who specialize in programming typically do not do very well teaching 5 year olds. Competent C coders just don't think like a 5 year old most of the time (snark aside).

I'm sure that you could do some training, but that would take a long time. And it would require some research into the best way for teaching very young people about programming. Some politicians are just making all these very nice goals, but the groundwork just hasn't been done to make them practical.

I'm sure that some people will say "meh, you are going to be teaching Hello World, how much training do you need"? Let me say that it matters. There have been a substantial number of studies which show that young kids will very quickly pick up on how their teacher feels about a subject. For example, many young girls pick up signals that math is hard, icky, and not fun from their educators (girls pick up signals from women better than boys do, and most K-3 educators are female, so this is a bigger problem for girls than boys).

This is a major reason why many girls fall behind so early in math. They get convinced at a very young age that math is stupid, hard, and only for boys. The same thing could very easily be introduced to programming as well.

While patients starve in NHS hospitals (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44220807)

Nearly 1,200 people have starved to death in NHS hospitals because 'nurses are too busy to feed patients'
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2287332/Nearly-1-200-people-starved-death-NHS-hospitals-nurses-busy-feed-patients.html

Good subject. Too early. (3, Insightful)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | about a year ago | (#44221759)

As a computer and software engineer, I've taught myself mechanical engineering and manufacturing techniques with a lot of help from a laser-cut & press-brake shop owner. The biggest thing people need to learn is that you can design anything you want in the computer but you can't build it. Limitations of the tooling are a big problem. Add to that the fact that CAD assumes that metal is totally flat over any distance and you're going to run into problems. Another lesson is nomenclature. What do you call certain fiddly bits? You know what one looks like but figuring out what to call it so you can find it in a catalog is a challenge.

IMHO, engineering curricula needs to deemphasize theory and put more focus on the real world.

Re:Good subject. Too early. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44222561)

All good points, at the moment secondary school children are taught how to fabricate things in plastic using lathes, milling machines and bench drills etc. They start this around age 11 or 12. This is the subject, design and technology, that is supposed to be getting the cool new toys.

Laser cutters? (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#44222101)

Overheard during recess: "No Mister Bond. I expect you to die."

It's all fun and games... (1)

Cary Lynn Bednar (2856565) | about a year ago | (#44222905)

until one of them accidentally prints a toy gun. Oh, it's in the English schools you say? Not the ones in America? Carry on then.

Re:It's all fun and games... (1)

b4upoo (166390) | about a year ago | (#44223639)

It is easy for the media to create an issue by making reports about printed guns. It would be more difficult for the media to report on 3D printers causing radical shifts in society. Right now 3D printing is a bit more than a gimmick but not really a technology ready for prime time. This fall the first home will be printed by a 3D printer. You can bet that the rush is on to find ways to print all consumer goods. Perhaps we will have 3D printed bicycles soon. The point being that we are seeing the end of human employment. I know that sounds strange to almost everyone but it is already happening. The stock market booms while workers are idle and paid less and less every year. These days a business may need no employees at all and it is quite possible that businesses soon will not even need an owner. It is going to be one heck of a ride.

C++ Debugging and Lasertag Robots for Kids! (1)

SerenelyHotPest (2970223) | about a year ago | (#44223123)

The comprehensive changes sound generally good, abstract though they are. Since we're dealing with abstractions, I'll keep it abstract:

If English schooling is anything like American (apologies, I haven't got much of a clue--I'm coming at this as I hear it as a "yank"), it will take time to implement these changes, and by the same token, it's comparatively easy to write a wishlist of changes that "sound good." The pessimist within murmurs that this seldom translates to real systemic improvement, which demands close attention to detail, a willingness to piss off certain obstructionists to realize a certain goal, thoroughly invested critical thinkers at the helm, and long-term planning. When I hear Brits describe their government, those are seldom the things suggested (seems to be a pretty universal phenomenon), but we'll see. This could turn out well for them. I'm not going to start on American schooling.

To the points about all the new comp/info sci, and the programming in particular, there are several problems with this that I notice:

First of all, teaching elementary or secondary school-aged kids multiple programming languages is a terrifying proposition. Firstly because it won't really work for most (if any) of them, for the same reason the "New Math" programs in the US failed (most children learn concretely most of the time; those few who can reason abstractly won't see the value in it until they have a grounding in the intuitive, concrete principles, which New Math glosses over) and for other reasons as well, like the fact that much of any abstraction will utterly fail to impress the other 80% of the kids in that age range. Secondly because programming languages are idiosyncratic and all demand practice, for which there's no substitute. It's far better to practice and gain experience with a single language than it is to swim in several (for the experience of saying "Oh! The language wants me to do it this way." rather than the expectation of growing up to become an [insert language] guru). Are we to assume English schools are going to create "immersive" programming environments in which children learn to bootstrap every facet of applications they themselves build to do the rest of their schoolwork? Thirdly because programming languages change so quickly that all but the general ideas and practice of building logical systems will be obsolete by the time they're adults. Fourthly because I seriously doubt the UK really has the resources in terms of trained and practiced teacher-programmers to do this right. All of these taken together mean that if this proposal is realized, it will waste a lot of time, money, and resource.

My personal advice to the British government and education system (because they have no doubt been sitting on the edges of their seats in anticipation of my pronouncement) is to bootstrap computing education with little exercises accomplishing little but hopefully meaningful tasks like turning a lightbulb on or off using a very simple programming environment and a very straightforward language. Make no mistake: this is a feet wettening exercise and little more. Anyone who shows extra interest can be given supplementary material. Then you slowly show how programming is the same thing as algebra, according to the same principles--slowly enough that just about everyone gets it. You ramp up the involvement of math in solving problems in science and computing. Use tons of visual aids: graphs of functions and networks and et cetra. Before they're through middle school, they must take a basic logic/critical thinking/statistics/epistemology course to establish correlation doesn't equal causation and how argument works. By the time they're in high school, the school should be organizing internships in computing-related fields and sending especially bright students to take classes at colleges and universities (full disclosure: this is what I did for a lot of my high school and it's one of the best things that happened to me). At every stage, for all the reasons mentioned, and the fact that you'll be having 40-60-year-old teachers trying to provide some of this instruction, you must stress keeping things simple and actually getting the important concepts.

This proposal isn't perfect, but it's something to work with. Importantly, it's much more realistic than the "teach kids several programming languages so they can reason abstractly and build robots before they hit puberty" notion.

Get Linux on the computers (1)

horza (87255) | about a year ago | (#44223425)

Every school computer should be running Linux. Not only would this save millions, but you can instantly pop up a shell and start programming in any language you want for free (C, Java, Python, etc). Kids can pick up a Pi to continue their hobby from home, without parents needlessly shelling out for expensive PCs or laptops. No need for expensive IDEs either.

The way you can so easily create custom Ubuntu distros, it's mind-blowing there isn't a UK tailored version of Edubuntu (different versions for different age groups) for schools.

Phillip.

Nice sound bite (1)

Justpin (2974855) | about a year ago | (#44223431)

Although it sounds ambitious I have doubts...... Mainly due to the shift in responsibility. 20-30 years ago you got bad grades? Your own fault. Today you get bad grades? Teachers fault. Hence a shift towards teaching to the exam....... Secondly go further to FE colleges (16+) and the situation gets worse. If you have a read of the Wolf Report (2011) she came up with damning conclusions about the education system especially FE. That courses were run not to benefit the learners, but purely to game the government funding system since the funding formulae changed once the children got above 14 and were based on results.
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